Between Black Friday and Cyber Monday lies Small Business Saturday. The saturation of big sales combined with the plethora of small business photographers encourages a lot of discussion. In particular, I counted at least a dozen conversations on social media and blogs aimed at defining professional photography. Today, I want to share my thoughts on the subject.
Defining Professional: The Parameters
There are a few vital pieces to this puzzle. To have a meaningful conversation, these need to be understood.
- Legally defining professional: Where a photographer operates matters. Different jurisdictions have different rules. Compliance with the appropriate laws, ordinances, and codes are part of defining professional in your area.
- Technical skill: The knowledge and ability required to create a quality image consistently. Add artistic acumen for personal flair and branding. Subjectivity is ever present in artistic endeavors, but technical capability shines through.
- Behavior: Beyond legal requirements, how one conducts business is vital when defining professional. Your clients receive quality, timely service. They know that you are working with them to meet a common goal: Excellent photographs.
What About The Money?
Inevitably, people debate the role that money plays in defining professional. There are two basic groups of thought:
- A professional makes their living (or a significant percentage thereof) through photography
- It isn’t about the money at all, but rather legal and/or peer recognition and quality of work
In my opinion, the first argument overstates the financial component. The second goes too far in ignoring that “professional” implies payment for services and goods. The real answer lies somewhere in between and, frankly, isn’t all that deceptive.
If I am going to define someone as a professional photographer in the state of Oklahoma, what requirements need to be met? It is quite simple really.
- Creating photographs in exchange for payment, adhering to all applicable laws relating to sales tax, etc.
- Photography-related revenue covers the entire cost of running the photography business.
- Consistently happy clients return and refer new clients to the photographer.
Over-simplified? Perhaps. Staying above board, covering costs, and making sure my clients are satisfied. This is all that matters to me in the end. The rest is semantics.